Today I started reading a book in the hope of helping myself find some new techniques and methods to deal with my dissociation. The book is called, ‘Coping with Trauma-Related Dissociation: Skills Training for Patients and Therapists’. I have searched for dissociation related books aimed at patients before, but most of them are aimed at professionals, and contain a lot of jargon and highly academic language – which is great, for professionals. What I wanted though, was a skills handbook to help me navigate my dissociation. I wanted something that would give me techniques, and methods; answers and rationalisations in addition to understanding of my difficulties and how they affect me instead of the stigma, ignorance and helplessness I’ve received from most so called professionals.
I thought it would be interesting to share my journey through the book, and to write an ongoing review on the book. Maybe it might help you too?
Chapter One focuses on understanding dissociation – which for me has been a mix of misunderstanding and self found understanding. Some professionals have explained it to me, others have denied it’s existence. So for me, my understanding has been somewhat misconstrued, warped and patchy. What I enjoyed the most about this chapter was that it explained a lot of the symptoms I struggle with without me making myself fit.
They spoke about learning to be in the present, “Being in the present, being aware of your surroundings and of yourself, is essential to learning, growing, and healing from a dissociative disorder. In the moment you are present, the past is behind you.” They also gave an exercise to do in order to ground yourself in the present, which focuses on the senses. Sight, sound and touch are all utilised in a way to help with grounding and being in the moment.
The book also speaks about the origins of chronic dissociation, and it was nice to hear an explanation based on experience. The experience is traumatising when the individual, or child does not have the resources to cope with the current trauma. I liked this explanation because there have been many times when I have denied myself the possibility of my experiences having such an impact because I was not ritually sexually abused, or involved in a cult – however, going off the explanation from the book, it is entirely valid that my experiences were damaging for me because I did not have the resources or emotional comfort or support to cope and deal with them.
At the end of the chapter there is a homework sheet.
Notice and write down what may and may not fit your experience.
“Childhood traumatisation can profoundly hamper our ability to integrate our experiences into a coherent and whole life narrative because the integrative capacity of children is much more limited than adults and is still developing”
“People with dissociative disorders do not feel integrated and instead feel fragmented because they have memories, thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and so forth that they experience as uncharacteristic and foreign, as though these do not belong to themselves.” – I identify a lot with this statement, and this is how I relate to my reality on a daily basis. My existence feels very fragmented, sometimes as if I am me, at others as if I am a robot, and others as another person – yet somehow each of these experience aggregate in my head.
“Dissociation generally develops when an experience is too threatening or overwhelming at the time for a person to be able to integrate fully, especially in the absence of adequate emotional support. Chronic dissociation among parts of the personality of self may become a ‘survival strategy’ in those who have experienced early childhood trauma To some degree, dissociation allows a person to go on with normal life by continuing to avoid being overwhelmed by extremely stressful experiences in both the present and the past.”
‘Most people with complex dissociative disorders first enter therapy with other complaints, such as anxiety, panic, depression, eating and sleeping difficulties, substance abuse, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, somatic problems, pseudo seizures, and relational difficulties.’ – This covers most of the difficulties I have faced over the years.
Notice and write down any thoughts, emotions, concerns, fears, questions, or other experiences that come to your mind.
I feel relieved to be reading a book that fits with my experiences. I feel a bit excited to read more because I think this may be the first book I have found that will really help me. I read a book by a dissociative survivor and I was so happy to read it because it was the first book I really related to, but this one brings excitement for other reasons: because finally I might learn some useful techniques, finally I might start to understand what happened and why I became to be the way that I am, and finally, things may start to fully make sense to me.
Notice if you tend to want to avoid the topic, and if so, how you avoid it.
My experiences feel quite numb when I think back to my childhood, and my experiences. I feel as though I am watching them, like I saw them on TV in someone else, or a friend told me about them. However, I remember them in a way that I know they are my experiences, but I don’t feel like I fully own them. I think this means I am not fully connected with those experiences yet and that I have some work to do in order to re-connect, experience, and heal from those memories.